Eye Level - Jenny Xie

Staff Pick

Early on, Xie “developed an appetite for elsewhere,” and her restless, probing first book of poems starts somewhere “between Hanoi and Sapa,” before traveling on to Phnom Penh, Corfu, and Chinatown. As quickly becomes apparent, Xie’s journeys are also spiritual, headed to “the borderless empire of the interior.” Her graceful lines—both short and fragmented as well as long and spacious—are full of Zen-like questions and the insight of koans. “Where is my oblivion?” she wonders, and “why not wait until I’ve waited why out?” With the charged, compressed imagery of haiku, these poems are also rich in worldly sensations, from the “smell of shadows” to the flash of “noon, white hour.” While Xie’s search for truth embraces both the physical and metaphysical, the way “a walk through the garden/ sets off the mind’s tripwires,” her quest for her truest self requires choices. She imagines spitting out old selves “like pits,” but also worries how any chosen self can be sure she’s “the gardener” with a right to prune away outgrown selves. The answer to this, like other answers, will come with perseverance: “clarity is just questioning having eaten its fill.” Whether for the immediacy of its descriptions, its wisdom, or its supple and gripping “plain speech,” this is a book to come back to again and again.

Eye Level: Poems By Jenny Xie Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555978020
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Graywolf Press - April 3rd, 2018

Wade in the Water - Tracy K. Smith

Staff Pick

“History is a ship forever setting sail.” It’s “in a hurry”—a “bus that will only wait so long.” It’s “a past/ That’s gone, but won’t lie down/And let us grieve it.” Most of all, in Smith’s stunning fourth collection, history is voices. To her own sure, lyrical voice (and impeccable ear for sound and rhythm) Smith adds those of migrants, victims of hate crimes, workers, freed slaves, and those who nearly died. Throughout this choral masterpiece of a book, she gives us the testimonies history has silenced. Using erasure to stunning effect, Smith reveals a long overlooked and urgent “Declaration” within the original Declaration of Independence, paring the hallowed document down to seventeen spare lines. These include “our” nine times, and Smith forces us to see how incomplete this proclamation was and still is. Who exactly is the “we” it represents? A case in point is Smith’s moving series of erasure poems drawn from letters written by African Americans during and after the Civil War. Addressed to spouses, children, and even Abraham Lincoln, the letters, many by former Union soldiers, are poignant pleas for the things most basic to human dignity: a united family, wages, a military pension, healthcare, and in one instance, “the name of the baby/ that was born Since I left.” Here and elsewhere, Smith spotlights names—those history recognizes, and those it doesn’t. Smith herself names the authors of the texts she uses and devotes her own fine “Ghazal” to reclaiming that “stolen crop: our name.”

Wade in the Water: Poems By Tracy K. Smith Cover Image
$24.00
ISBN: 9781555978136
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Graywolf Press - April 3rd, 2018

Registers of Illuminated Villages - Tarfia Faizullah

Staff Pick

Faizullah’s dazzling second collection is an over-brimming well of lyrics, dreams, portraits, voices, memories, and challenges. The transformative power of language starts with the title, a revision of the catalog of “397 eliminated” Kurdish villages in Northern Iraq. With this, Faizullah announces her project of not just elegizing, but restoring, creating anew, and calling history to account.  Ambitious as this is, it is only part of what happens in the book. Though she’d like to be “done cataloguing/ loss” and instead “sand glossy/the corners of rib-/cages that I empty,” the book is haunted by the younger sister who died in a car crash. Just as political violence has left “bone too stubborn to burn” where villages used to be, the girl, as irrepressible as the poet, won’t be laid to rest. Seriously injured in that same collision, Faizullah is always conscious of bodies, and her language repeatedly fuses the physical and the emotional: “when I say love, / I mean/each artery of this ink.” Speaking in many “registers”—Hunger, Submission, Solace, Astonishment—Faizullah is passionate in every one of them. More than that, “I do not dream. I glow,” she states. As do her illuminations.

Registers of Illuminated Villages: Poems By Tarfia Faizullah Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9781555978006
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Graywolf Press - March 6th, 2018

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